This week I welcomed the award of £1,262,905 to farmers and foresters in the constituency as part of DEFRA’s Farming Equipment and Technology Fund.
This will help growers in North Cornwall to boost farm productivity, reduce waste and cut input costs, as well as increase environmental sustainability and improve slurry management.
The Government has increased the budget to £31 million in response to farmer demand from the original budget of £17 million. This means more than 3,000 farmers and contractors are set to receive grants to invest in improving the sustainability of their farm businesses. The fund forms part of the Government’s manifesto commitment to invest £2.4 billion per year in farming for the rest of this Parliament. In 2023 alone, at least £168 million is being made available to increase farming productivity through 16 different grants and competitions themed around productivity, research, and innovation. This is an excellent programme that I have been very supportive of and I am pleased that the Government is continuing to deliver on our pledges for constituencies like North Cornwall.
I am aware that the Secretary of State plans to offer further rounds of this offer, alongside larger grants to support further investment in water storage and improving irrigation slurry infrastructure, as well as funding for automation and robotics. This sits alongside our Environmental Land Management schemes, where payments for over 200 actions are currently available to farmers across the country.
Keeping on the theme of farming I was able to show my support for rural mental health by hearing from farming charities and recognising the additional challenges faced by rural communities which have been highlighted in a new survey from the National Farmers Union (NFU).
The NFU convened rural mental health charities at an event in Parliament, bringing together a wide group of stakeholders and experts to discuss rural mental health, the ways that it can be improved, and the support needed to tackle the root causes of the challenges faced by farmers. New survey data reveals that over 68% of farmers in Britain have had their mental health negatively impacted by spiralling input costs, such as fuel, animal feed and fertiliser, which have been at record levels due to factors such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
I was incredibly proud to represent the farmers and growers here in North Cornwall and I recognise the importance of protecting the mental health of our food producers and people living in our rural communities. The global challenges over the past few years have shown us just how important it is to have a strong farming sector, and resilient farmers are essential for a resilient food chain in Britain.
Taking mental health seriously ought to be a priority for everyone, and this new data suggests that while farming is a fantastic industry to work in, pressures can be incredibly challenging and support across the board is critical.